United Airlines has changed its employee booking policy. As of Friday, crew members must be booked 60 minutes in advance and cannot bump passengers that are already on a plane. Well, duh.
This policy change has come about because of a recent incident, captured on video as shown below.
Normally I don't like to judge an airline (or any other company) on one incident. Even with video evidence, I'm aware of the fact that I don't know what happened before the cameras started rolling.
But—wow—this video is crazy. I simply cannot believe that there could be any rational reason to drag a passenger off a plane in such a way, and nothing that has come out in the past week to suggest the passenger was anything close to "belligerent". The issue is not that the flight was overbooked; that is normal and keeps ticket costs low. The issue is that a paying customer was forced—and I do mean forced—off a plane after boarding. The level of force used is inexplicable.
Oh, and United's CEO Oscar Munoz's so-called apology for "having to re-accommodate" the paying customers was another kick in the teeth.
This isn't the first time United has been in the news for bad behaviour.
In late March, just two weeks before the dragging incident, a couple young girls wee denied boarding a United flight because they were wearing leggings. After brief outrage (wait—is there seriously a no-legging policy for airline passengers?), it was revealed that the passengers were dependents of United employees and flying as "pass riders"—meaning they were flying for free or a deep discount.
A spokesperson for United, Jonathan Guerin, told the Washington Post that "regular customers are not going to be denied boarding because they are wearing leggings or yoga pants. But ... we require pass travellers to follow rules, and that is one of the rules."
Fair point. I side with United on this one.
United has been in trouble for more than just denying passengers a seat on the plane; they mishandle customers' goods, too. Remember the oh-so-catchy indie hit from 2009, "United Breaks Guitars"?
So, after all this, United has agreed that seated passengers will not be booted (or dragged) off a flight. Other American airlines are also updating their rules: Delta may compensate passengers up to $10000 for a rebooking, and American won't kick paying and boarded passengers off a flight.
I have a feeling that this won't be the last incident of bad behaviour we hear about United or other North American airlines. As long as customers use low prices as the prime factor in choosing a flight, airlines will continue to lower their customer relations standards as well.
When it comes to air travel, we get what we pay for.